Move Over Sugar, There’s A New Date in Town
American society has come a long way since the days of liberally using processed white sugar in everything, as sugar is tied to a host of health problems, and many food products are/were dyed white for no apparent reason. Honey is a great alternative as a sweetening ingredient, but all good solutions tend to have a hidden catch or are problematic in themselves. It’s well-known that bee populations have suffered in the wake of pesticides, habitat loss, and Colony Collapse Disorder. (Thankfully we have local apiary Lavender Fig who keep things local!) There are also honey brands that have unfortunately been compromised with sweeteners and watered-down honey and adulterants, often from China.
Enter the date palm.
Humanity already relies heavily on palm trees for palm oils used in foods and a variety of purposes. Dates are a staple of middle eastern cuisine and as far as healthy sweet snacks go, they have great nutritional value, unlike junk and snack foods with empty calories and excessive salts and sugars. Dates are low fat and contain a decent amount of needed trace minerals and fiber. Date syrup can be so thick and viscous that it is even used in Pakistan as a coating for leather goods and to seal pipes! And any Brit will tell you that the iconic British HP Sauce condiment isn’t authentic without dates as an ingredient.
There has been a sustained trend in the culinary world toward ancient grains, so-called “paleolithic” foods, and getting-back-to-the-land-type eating. Dates are ancient and trusted, having been around since oasis agriculture began. Dates are naturally wind-pollinated, but when commercially farmed, they are, amazingly, hand-pollinated. They are also generally not genetically-modified, if that is a concern of yours.
Remedy Organics, in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, make grab-and-go healthy beverages, and some of their products feature dates as a sweetener. (They also make one infused with lion’s mane mushroom; we wrote about mushrooms in foods earlier.) The dates in their Cacao Essentials are organic and not merely a last-in-the-list ingredient.
At Bex Kitchen, Chef Becky’s Dates Wrapped in Bacon is a popular favorite. This wonderful combination works well as an appetizer/starter, or some even find them filling in themselves. Dates provide more than just sweetness by also having a savory aspect. They come pitted and non-pitted, with no apparent difference in taste. (Castelvetrano olives, on the other hand, taste noticeably different between pitted and non-pitted.)
The white milk, white bread, white flour, and white sugar that largely defined the 20th century have given way to dye-free foods and medicines, sugar alternatives, alternative flours, and alt-milks (as you’ll notice at any coffee place). Explore how versatile the mighty date is, and keep Bex Kitchen in mind for your catering needs.